Polenta Lasagna with Short Rib Ragu

Polenta Lasagna with Short Rib Ragu



Following all the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasting, my mind automatically vows to lose the 5 lbs. I gained. Note, I said my mind, because my mind and my mouth don’t always speak to each other. Since there are no major holidays ahead, except for New Year’s, I may achieve my goal if I’m good. Wait…..how many calories are there in Prosecco?? Well it could be worse. After chatting with my Zia Maria in Italy over the holidays, I was reminded they are far from done yet. Their Christmas season doesn’t end until La Befana (Epiphany) on January 6th when kids get more presents and sweets

As for me, I am happy to go on to the New Year, fiscal cliff nosedive or not. I was hoping to tighten my belt, but as a result of losing those 5 lbs., not carving my food budget. This recipe fits the bill. It is easy, elegant, inexpensive and will welcome the New Year in style. Perhaps a little less CNN in the background would help. The topping and ragu can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you are in a polenta mood.

In addition to the following ingredients, you will also need a package of fresh mozzarella sliced thin and some shredded Fontina to layer between the polenta squares.

Roasted Tomato Topping:

Roast the following in a glass roasting dish at 300 degrees for about 2-3 hours:
2 pints red and yellow cherry tomatoes cut in halves
4 cloves minced garlic
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Short Rib Ragu:

1 larged minced shallot
4-6 short ribs
1 finely minced carrot
1 stalk finely minced celery
2 cups homemade leftover marinara sauce or 15 oz. jar San Marzano or Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes
two shakes of Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of thyme
1/2 cup red wine

While the cherry tomatoes are roasting, you start the ragu by braising the short ribs in a high saute pan until all sides are browned. Add the minced ingredients and stir around for a few minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low for three hours on stovetop (or ovenproof vessel next to the roasting cherry tomatoes.) When the three hours are up, shred the tender short ribs with two forks and put back in the ragu pot.

Prepare the Bellino Instant Polenta per package directions, or use the longer cooking type if you can find it. I make it with chicken broth instead of water, add 2 tbs. of butter and a handful of grated Parmesan. Spread the polenta on a large baking sheet and smooth the top with the back of a wet spoon and let cool until firm. Polenta should be spread about 1/4 inch high. The rest is a matter of assembly onto a large baking dish as follows:

one layer of polenta squares
spoon over some short rib ragu
top with slices of mozzarella
add another layer of polenta squares topped with the ragu
spread shredded Fontina all over
top with third layer of polenta squares
top with the roasted cherry tomatoes and more cheese if you desire
Bake in 350 oven for about 15 minutes until heated thoroughly and enjoy!

Options: What’s great about polenta is that is it very versatile. You can swap some ingredients to your own liking. I’ve made this with sauteed crumbled Italian sausage as well as vegetarian versions of sauteed portabella mushrooms and onions or sauteed vegetables like zucchini, onions, asparagus and spinach. If you don’t have time to slice and layer, you can just ladle the freshly made polenta into bowls and spoon over your ragu. Even chili is great over polenta! Serves 4-6.